Staff Review: Surefire SFMB-556-1/2-28 muzzle brake
Previously, I’ve reviewed muzzle brakes from Griffin Armament and Rainier Arms, finding them to be quite effective. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. I found myself looking for a brake to permanently attach to a 14.5″ barreled upper I was building. Like everyone who has ever watched Chris Costa (or a host of other high-speed, low-drag, tactical dudes), I saw him using a 14.5 inch AR-15 upper equipped with a Surefire muzzle brake.
I read reviews, compared prices and lusted after the 5.56mm version. Honestly, most of my dealings are with companies that are not as massive and well-established as Surefire. That said, I sent off a request to Surefire, explaining how I wanted to test their muzzle brake. Naturally, I heard nothing back from them. I waited, stewed, and tested products from other companies. Finally, when I could bear it no longer, I decided to buy the thing. Yes, it’s costly. I didn’t care.
That day, I did what I always do when getting online: checked my email. Lo and behold, there was something in my inbox from Surefire, asking if I was still interested in the SFMB-556-1/2-28. Of course I was. To be truthful, I would have been just as happy to settle for something like one of their older MB556k units. I say “older” but really, the newer version has only been shipping to dealers for about a month.
The muzzle brake arrived and I opened the package with greedy hands. Before I get to the gory (in a very good way) details of performance, we need to talk about the construction of this thing.
Machined from heat-treated stainless steel, it’s black Ionbond coated. I’m a huge fan of protective coatings, as they increase corrosion resistance and prolong the life of components. Personally, I love melonite (QPQ), but IonBond is growing on me. I’m writing a review an IonBond treated bolt carrier group by Black Dawn right now, in fact. Seriously, I’m actually writing these reviews in concert. The ability to do so is a curse rather than a gift. So this muzzle brake is capable of taking massive amounts of corrosive residue from the nasty Soviet surplus 5.45x39mm I shoot, and that’s a worthwhile consideration, since it’s to be permanently attached to a barrel.
On the top of the brake, there are two small ports for venting gasses up. This counterbalances the natural muzzle rise experienced by shooters. The top ports on the Surefire are roughly the same size as the ones on the Rainier Arms RMC. Unlike the RMC, there are no sharp prongs on the end of the Surefire.
The dual chamber design is similar in some ways to the Griffin Armament M4SDII I reviewed previously, though a bit more complex. While the “floor” and ceiling” of the chambers in the M4SDII are flat, the ones in the Surefire are not. There is a distinct ridge in the center, which slopes down and then slightly up before reaching the edge. This actually enlarges the area of the chamber while providing a rigid spine down the centerline.
With this brake, Surefire gives the user a unique measure of customization. The ports at 3 and 9 O’clock allow the user to fine-tune the brake to his or her needs. These ports can be drilled out to provide additional venting of propellant gasses, fitting the muzzle brake to the individual shooter.
On to the performance of the muzzle brake:
When shooting from a supine position, I made the mistake of having the muzzle very close to my left leg. The muzzle blast directed to the side slapped into my calf with such stinging force that I initially thought I’d been hit by debris. You’ll be able to notice it when you watch the video below.
The muzzle brake is phenomenal. Yes, I know I said that in the video. I figured you may not have believed me the first time. The reduction in recoil and, better yet, the reduction in muzzle climb is fantastic. I can place rounds on target faster, more accurately, and more easily with this brake than any of the other muzzle devices I’ve used.
There is a cost (besides the obvious $149 MSRP). The flash is about the same as the Griffin Armament M4SDII muzzle brake. There are some excellent features to the SFMB-556-1/2-28 though, features that mitigate the unit’s drawbacks.
Take the side blast. The concussion is painful, especially if you’re stupid enough to have your leg right next to the muzzle (guilty as charged). It also kicks up dust like you wouldn’t believe when shooting on your side lying down. Lying in between concrete shooting benches, the concussion is such that you can feel it in your sinuses. Interestingly enough, the brake is not nearly so annoying or painful as you might think to be next to on the firing line. The Impulse Diffusion design reduces side and rear concussion, directing it forward of the shooter.
While this isn’t quite so apparent in a confined space, it is noticeable when you let the guy next to you rap off a few rounds with your new Shashka carbine. Also, I don’t get quite so many angry looks at the range when I’m not deafening those to my right and left. I do get envious looks, but that’s something different altogether.
-By Allen Cosby
Author’s Addition: I would like to thank my friend Augie R. for help with the following photograph. I would also like to thank all of this country’s Vietnam veterans (of which he is one) for their service. Your sacrifices are too often overlooked.